The closure of Canada’s border for non-essential trips due to the COVID-19 epidemic – at least until January 21 – raises questions about who can enter and who is confused.
To help unravel the country’s complex border controls, CBC News spoke with Denise Vinette, vice president of the Govt-19 Border Task Force at the Border Services Agency of Canada (CBSA).
Vinet spoke about how the epidemic affected Canada’s borders. “It simply came to our notice then [border] Restrictions. “
At the end of March, Canada closed its borders to foreigners visiting for essential reasons. Since then, more than seven million Canadians and foreigners have entered the country by land or plane, according to the CBSA. That number includes multiple entries made by the same person.
The figure is actually a drop in the bucket Compared to 2019 When more than seven million people entered Canada in a single month.
Trucks are moving the economy
Vinet said truck drivers are to blame for the huge group that entered Canada during the epidemic, which has so far accounted for more than half of the total entries.
The second largest group is people living in border cities and working on the opposite side of the border, he said.
Both groups Exclude From Canada’s 14 day isolation requirement – designed to prevent the spread of COVID – 19.
“Most of the trade between North America and Canada and the United States is by truck. If truck drivers have to isolate themselves every time, it will be stopped,” Vinet said.
“One of the early starting direction[s] We have received from the government that we will ensure that trade continues to thrive and prosper. “
Looking at nationalities, Vinet said, Canadian citizens and permanent residents are the largest group of people entering the country during border closures. That group includes retirees.
The federal government though Canadians are advised to stay at home, They can still fly to the United States and other countries with open borders, but should Isolation for 14 days As soon as they returned.
“There’s nothing stopping Canada from leaving Canada. When they come back, they enter right,” Vinet said.
More than one million Canadian passengers have entered the country since March 21, according to CBSA data.
CBSA made mistakes
While it is clear why truck drivers get a free pass, questions have been raised about why some other passengers were allowed into Canada – and to avoid the need for isolation.
CBC News recently had CEOs of two major U.S. companies, shipping company Yulein Inc. and retailer Costco – each allowed to enter Canada and avoid isolation in August. During each of their short trips, CEOs visited the company-owned operations in Ontario.
In both cases, Vinet said, CBSA officials misunderstood the CEOs’ trip as essential and allowed them to go inside.
“Sadly it happened.”
Vinet said the CBSA has clarified with its officials what kind of business trip is necessary.
“Usually you will not be allowed to come and visit your activities for the purposes of your annual visits,” he said.
Watch | Costco executives receive incorrectly isolated exemption, Ottawa says:
In late July, the CBSA also imposed rules for Americans traveling to Alaska via Canada.
Since the border closure began, Americans have been allowed to drive directly into Alaska via Canada, for unwanted reasons such as returning to work or home. In the summer, it became clear that some people were breaking the rules by going on leisure trips during their trek.
“We had events where people entered Quebec and went from the East Coast to Alaska, and they would spend more than two weeks in Canada,” Vinet said.
In response, the CBSA is now determining which crossings drivers traveling to Alaska can enter and when they should leave Canada.
“Anyone who takes too much time will be subjected to more scrutiny and will even be denied entry into Canada in the future,” Vinet said.
Americans are still trying to get to the store
Although millions of passengers entered Canada during the border closure, the CBSA refused to allow 28,612 foreigners (mostly Americans) to travel from the United States by land or plane because they wanted to visit or for essential reasons such as shopping.
Despite several months of news and warnings from the CBSA about the closure of the Canada-US border, more than 4,000 of them have been denied entry in the past two months.
“Some people are coming in unaware, they don’t understand or not … none of our media is around, ‘Now is not the time to travel,” Vinet said.
There must have been a bear-y essential reason for this four-legged traveler to cross the border into the Pigeon River. Remember, 🇨🇦 The border is closed for travel at will. https://t.co/aGjly2YfkF pic.twitter.com / As7ECfIVdw
For the first six months of the epidemic, CBSA officials had to turn away many people in Canada who were trying to see loved ones, including their allies. Although Canada began allowing foreigners with immediate family in September, many unmarried couples did not qualify.
“It was heartbreaking because you had everyone who came to the border and wanted to reunite, not with partners for long,” Vinet said.
Canada further relaxed its travel restrictions on Oct. 8, allowing some families and couples to reunite, which was extended for at least a year – once they received prior approval from the government.
“It simply came to our notice then [a border officer’s] The work is very easy, ”Vinet said.